Company culture is more important than ever. It’s not that company culture was ever unimportant, but it’s quickly proving to be a “must-have” rather than a “nice-to-have.”
For the first time in history, millennials have become the largest generational cohort in the U.S. workforce, with almost 54 million making up the labor force. Millennials aren’t from outer space, but they did grow up in a different setting from previous generations, which contributes to the shifting priorities that we’re seeing in the workforce today.
Consider my grandfather, who presented me a gold watch that signified his 25 years of service at the same company. His generation and my parents’ generation had to navigate the labor force in the wake of the Great Depression and World War II. Therefore, I, along with the majority of my peers, was told that job security was the most important element when considering a career.
Millennials, by contrast, grew up in a time of financial prosperity and rapid technological advancements. A career means much more than a stable place to work for 25 years and employees are looking at company values, meaning, community, and culture.
This leads us to today’s workplace landscape, in which HR leaders consider culture and engagement their number-one challenge, according to a recent study by Deloitte University Press. It’s clear that in order to attract, retain and engage the modern workforce, we need to focus on company culture.
It’s a tall order, and we should start by looking at what employees (millennials and non-millennials alike) value in their job. Here are three priorities of today’s workforce to consider when developing your company culture:
Flexibility on the job
According to a study by PWC, employees of all generations are prioritizing flexibility in their jobs, whether that be in the form of scheduling, location or even office setup. In fact, for many employees, flexibility in a job is more important than compensation and promotion.
As a father of two, I work from home from time to time so that I can attend school plays and soccer games. Providing this flexibility in my company allows me to be there for my family while running a growing business. My employees know they can do the same to achieve that balance in their life. Luckily, we live in an age of technology innovations, and there are plenty of solutions that help employees collaborate, learn and be productive, regardless of their hours or location.
Like flexibility, professional development is even more important to millennials than financial rewards when selecting an employer. This means that you should think about the potential for advancement within your company and also how you are presenting job opportunities to prospective employees.
There are many interesting professional development initiatives you can explore to make sure employees are learning and developing on the job, like connecting employees to MOOCs (massive open online courses), building out a mentorship program or promoting passion projects.
Be good, do good
Prospective and current employees care about your reputation as a company. This reputation encompasses your employer brand and also your company’s social responsibility efforts, such as corporate giving, volunteerism and sustainability. What your company does and says needs to align with what employees believe.
A powerful example of making this part of your company culture is Whole Foods, who incorporates social responsibility as a core value: “We serve and support our local and global communities.”
However, it doesn’t need to be that drastic, and there are plenty of smaller things you can do as a company. For example, at my company CultureIQ, we volunteered together as one of our monthly culture events. Some companies even allocate a designated amount of time for off-site volunteer activities.
While millennials have brought these topics to the forefront of our minds, your company culture should be designed for and built by all employees. These priorities give you a place to start, but the strongest company cultures develop from input and feedback from employees.